The Revelation of Jesus In and Through Our Lives
The Key to Revival
APPLY the Word of God, deal very specifically with sin, and leave nothing undone in our lives. PASSIVITY is sin!
Our God, we want to offer You our hearts and our lives and all that we are. More than anything else, we want You to be honored. We don’t want to sing songs unless we mean them. We don’t want to sing songs unless we can sing with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind and with all of our strength. God, we want to live life that way, but especially for the time that we are gathered in Your name, we really do want You to be the King and Lord. We want Your freedom and Your Spirit to rule in our hearts and in our midst. More than anything, we want You to have Your way with us. Whatever hindrances need to be removed for our spiritual growth, if there is lack of vision, if there is wrong thinking, if there is just plain sin that needs to be rooted out, God, we ask for Your light. We ask for those things to be exposed, because we want to serve You. We know that the time is short, but we want to give You all that we can with our lives. And whatever role the next bit of time plays in all that, we want it to be the very highest and the very best. We want You to be pleased with Your people. Please hear our prayer and we offer the time to You. Amen.
The following is an excerpt of a chapter in a book written several years ago by T. Austin Sparks:
Whenever things are in danger of departing from His full, His complete thought, God will always seek to bring back a fresh revelation of His Son. He will not lead to the recapture of truth as such. He will bring back all that is necessary by a fresh revelation of His Son. An unveiling or presentation of His Son in fullness. The New Testament church was departing from its original glory, purity, truth, holiness, and spirituality and becoming an earthly system. The Lord’s way of meeting that situation was through the Letters which are a new presentation of His Son in heavenly, divine and spiritual fullness. It is a coming back to Christ, and the Holy Spirit does that all the time. He brings us back to the Person to show us what that Person represents in a Spiritual and Heavenly way.
We must be very careful that in our reading on from the Gospels to the Letters, we do not slip unconsciously into the belief that the Letters are more advanced than the Gospels. Everything in the Letters is there in the Gospels. The Letters are simply the interpretation of Christ, and the Lord would never have us occupied with the interpretation to the loss of the person. We take the Acts and the Letters as setting forth a procedure of the church and adopted as a crystallized system of practice, order, form and teaching. The weakness of this position is that this is something in and of itself, and the Lord Jesus has been missed and lost. You can draw out of the Letters one hundred different earthly systems, all built upon the Letters. They will be made to support any number of different systems, different interpretations, each represented by different christian groups, all because they have been separated from the person. Certain people center around a sanctification teaching, and they are the ‘Sanctificationists,’ and it becomes an ‘ism.’ Others center on, and become consumed in ‘secondadventism,’ the Lord’s coming, prophecy and all that. So you get groups like that. I want to say that would be utterly impossible if the person of the Lord Jesus was dominant. What is the Kingdom of God? It is Christ. If you get inside the Gospels, you will find that the Kingdom of God is Jesus Christ.
In the first place, the Kingdom is not a ‘thing.’ The Kingdom, when it becomes something universal, will simply be the expression and manifestation of Christ. That is all. You come to the Kingdom in and through Christ, and the same is true of everything else. What is sanctification? It is not a doctrine. It is not an ‘it’ at all. It is Christ. He has become for us the true wisdom, a matter in practice of being made righteous and holy. In fact, of being redeemed. If you are in Christ, and if the Holy Spirit is teaching you Christ, then you are learning all about sanctification. If He is not, you may have a theory and doctrine of sanctification, but it will separate you from other Christians. It will cause any number of other Christians problems. Probably the teaching of sanctification as a thing has caused more Christians problems than any other doctrine by making it a thing, instead of keeping Christ as our sanctification. The Holy Spirit is not teaching us ‘things.’ Not church doctrine, not sanctification, not adventism, not any thing or any number of things, but the Spirit teaching us Christ. What is adventism? Well, it is the coming of the Lord. And what is the coming of the Lord? This will give us the key—‘But to them whom He has made holy, His coming will mean splendor unimaginable.’ It will be a breathtaking wonder to all who believe.
You see, it is the fulfillment of something that has been going on in an inward way. How then will I best know when the coming of the Lord is near? Not best of all by prophetic signs, but by what is going on within the hearts of the Lord’s people. That is the best sign of the times. Namely, what the Spirit of God is doing in the people of God. But maybe you are not interested in that. You would rather know what is going to happen with the European community. How far does this get us? Where is all the talking about the break with Communist countries? That is adventism as a thing. For when we keep close to Him, who is the sum of all truth, and move with Him and learn Him, we shall know the course of things. We shall know what is imminent. We will hear in our hearts whisperings of preparation. The best advent preparation is to know the Lord. I am not saying that there is nothing in prophecy. Don’t misunderstand me. But I do know there are multitudes of people who are simply engrossed in prophecy as a thing. Whose spiritual lives count for nothing. Who really have no deep inward walk with the Lord.
I will never forget on a visit to a certain country, going into one of the big cities where I was to speak for a week, everything was so arranged that my first message was timed to follow the last message of a man who had been a week before me. And he had been on prophecy for the whole week. I went into the last meeting where he gave his final message on the signs of the time. Notebooks were out, and they were taking it all down, fascinated. It was all external, all objective. Such things as the Roman Empire revived and Palestine recovered. You know the sort of thing. Then he finished, and they were waiting for more, and the notebooks were ready. The Lord put it in my heart that the first word was to be ‘Everyone who has a hope like that keeps himself pure, as Christ is pure.’ To speak on the spiritual effect of that spiritual hope. They were not interested in that. The notebooks were closed, pencils put away; there was no interest as I sought in the Lord to be very faithful as to what all this should mean in an inward way. They were only longing for the meeting to close. When I finished—they hardly waited for me to finish—they were up and out. It is the Lord, and the Holy Spirit wants to bring us back to the Lord. It is not coming back to non-essentials, to elementary things, to come back to Christ. It is coming to the only basis upon which the Holy Spirit can really accomplish all of God’s will and purpose.
That’s really meant a lot to me. Because it kind of broke through the religious facade that I’ve found myself living in. Just seeing that it’s not about trying to live up to “things” or achieving “things”—achieving holiness or sanctification or whatever, as a “thing,” but it’s about driving after Jesus, to know Jesus because He is all of those things. It has brought a lot of freedom and encouragement to me to read that.
This article appeared May 15, 1963, just two days after the death of Dr. Tozer. In a sense, it was his valedictory, for it expressed the concern of his heart. This article appeared in the first issue of Light for Life in 1990. We feel its message is vital for this time in keeping with the theme of this issue, so we print it again, trusting that it will speak to the hearts of the readers.
The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches
Here is the burden of my heart, and while I claim for myself no special inspiration, I yet feel that this is also the burden of the Spirit. If I know my own heart, it is love alone that moves me to write this. What I write here is not the sour ferment of a mind agitated by contingents or conflicts with my fellow Christians. There have been no contingents. I have not been abused, mistreated, or attacked by anyone, nor have these observations grown out of any unpleasant experiences that I have had in my association with others. My relations with my own church, as well as with Christians of many other denominations have been friendly, courteous and pleasant. My grief is simply the result of the condition, which I believe to be almost universally present among the churches. I think also that I should acknowledge that I am, myself, very much involved in the situation I here deplore.
As Ezra and his mighty prayer of intercession included himself among the wrongdoers, so do I. ‘Oh my God, I am ashamed, and blush to lift my face unto thee, my God. For our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespasses grown up into the heavens.’ Any hard word spoken here against others I must in simple honesty return upon my own head. I too have been guilty. This is written with the hope that we all may turn unto the Lord our God and sin no more against Him. Let me state the cause of my burden. It is this: Jesus Christ has, today, almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name. By these I mean not the Roman Catholics, nor the liberals, nor the various quasi-Christian cults. I do mean protestant churches generally, and I include those that protest the loudest, that they are in a spiritual descent from our Lord and His apostles, namely the evangelicals.
It is a basic doctrine in the New Testament that after His resurrection, the man Jesus Christ was declared by God to be both Lord and Christ, and that He was invested by the Father with absolute Lordship over the Church, which is His body. All authority is His in heaven and earth. In His own proper time, He will exert it to the full. But during this period in history, He allows this authority to be challenged or ignored, and just now it is being challenged by the world and ignored by the church. The present position of Christ in the gospel churches may be likened to that of a king in a limited constitutional monarchy. The king, sometimes depersonalized by the term the ‘crown,’ is in such a country no more than a traditional rallying point. He is a pleasant symbol of unity and loyalty much like a flag or a national anthem. He is lauded, feted and supported, but his real authority is small. Nominally, he is head over all, but in every crises, someone else makes the decisions. On formal occasions, he appears in his royal attire to deliver the tame, colorless speech put into his mouth by the real rulers of the country. The whole thing may be no more than good-natured make-believe, but it is rooted in antiquity. It is a lot of fun, and nobody wants to give it up. Among the gospel churches, Christ is now, in fact, little more than a beloved symbol.
‘All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name’ is the church’s national anthem, and the cross is her official flag. But in the week by week services of the church, and the day by day conduct of her members, someone else, not Christ, makes the decisions. Under proper circumstances, Christ is allowed to say, ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden,’ or ‘Let not your heart be troubled.’ But when the speech is finished, someone else takes over. Those in actual authority decide the moral standards of the church, as well as all the objectives and all methods employed to achieve them. Because of the long and meticulous organization, it is now possible for the youngest pastor just out of seminary to have more actual authority than Jesus Christ has. Not only does Christ have little or no authority, His influence is also becoming less and less. I would not say that He has none, only that it is small and diminishing.
A fair parallel would be the influence of Abraham Lincoln over the American people. ‘Honest Abe’ is still the idol of the country, the likeness of his kind, rugged face, so homely that it’s beautiful, appears everywhere. It is easy to grow misty-eyed over him. Children are brought up on stories of his love, his honesty and his humility. But after we have gotten control of our tender emotions, what have we left? No more than a good example, which, as it recedes into the past, becomes more and more unreal and exercises less and less real influence. Every scoundrel is ready to wrap Lincoln’s long, black coat around him, but in the cold light of political facts in the United States, the constant appeal to Lincoln by the politicians is a cynical joke. The Lordship of Jesus is not forgotten among Christians, but it has been relegated to the hymnal, where all responsibility toward it may be comfortably discharged in a glow of pleasant religious emotion. If it is taught as theory in the classroom, it is rarely applied to practical living. The idea that the man Christ Jesus has absolute and final authority over the whole church and over all of its members in every detail of their lives is simply not now accepted as true by the rank and file of evangelical Christians.
Avoiding the Lordship of Christ
What we do is this: We accept the Christianity of our group as being identical with that of Christ and His apostles. The beliefs, the practices, the ethics, and the activities of our group are equated with the Christianity of the New Testament. Whatever the group thinks or says or does is scriptural, no questions asked. It is assumed that all the Lord expects of us is that we busy ourselves with the activities of the group, and in so doing, we are keeping the commands of Christ. To avoid the hard necessity of either obeying or rejecting the plain instructions of our Lord in the New Testament, we take refuge in the liberal interpretation of them. Casuistry (rationalization) is not the possession of the Roman Catholic theologians alone. We evangelicals also know how to avoid sharp points of obedience by means of fine and intricate explanations. These are tailor-made for the flesh. They excuse disobedience, comfort carnality, and make the words of Christ no effect.
And the essence of it all is that Christ simply could not have meant what He said. His teachings are accepted, even theoretically, only after they have been weakened by interpretation. Yet Christ is consulted by increasing numbers of persons with problems, and sought after by those who long for peace of mind. He is widely recommended as a kind of spiritual psychiatrist with remarkable powers to straighten people out. He is able to deliver them from their guilt complexes and to help them avoid serious psychic traumas by making a smooth and easy adjustment to society and their own ides.
Of course, this strange Christ has no relation, whatsoever, to the Christ of the New Testament. The true Christ is also Lord, but this accommodating Christ is little more than the servant of the people. But I suppose I should offer some concrete proof to support my charge that Christ has little or no authority today among the churches. Well, let me put forth a few questions and let the answers be the unpleasant evidence.
What church board consults our Lord’s word to decide matters under discussion?
Let anyone reading this who has had any experience on a church board try to recall the times or time when any board member read from the scripture to make a point. Or any chairman suggested that the brethren should see what instructions the Lord had for them on a particular question. Board meetings are habitually opened with a formal prayer or season of prayer. After that, the head of the church is respectfully silent while the real rulers take over. Let anyone who denies this bring forth evidence to refute it. I, for one, will be glad to hear it. What Sunday school committee goes to the Word for directions? Do not members invariably assume that they already know what they are supposed to do and that their only problem is to find an effective means to get it done? Plans, rules, operations, and new methodology techniques absorb all their time and attention. The prayer before the meeting is for divine help to carry out their plans. Apparently the idea that the Lord might have some instructions for them so much as never enters their heads!
Who remembers when a conference chairman brought his Bible to the table with him for the purpose of using it? Minutes, regulations, rules of order, yes. The sacred commandments of the Lord, no. An absolute dichotomy exists between the devotional period and the business session. The first has no relation to the second. What foreign mission board actually seeks to follow the guidance of the Lord as provided by His Word and His spirit? They all think they do, but what they do in fact is to assume the scripturalness of their ends and then ask for help and find ways to achieve them. They might pray all night for God to give success to their enterprises, but Christ is desired as their helper, not as their Lord. Human means are devised to achieve ends assumed to be divine. These harden into policy and, thereafter, the Lord doesn’t even have a vote. In the conduct of our public worship, where is the authority of Christ to be found? The truth is that today the Lord rarely controls the service, and the influence He exerts is very small.
We sing of Him and preach about Him, but He must not interfere. We worship our way and it must be right because we have always done it that way, as have the other churches in our group. What church, when faced with a moral problem, goes straight to the Sermon on the Mount or other New Testament scripture for the authoritative answer? Who lets the Words of Christ be final on giving, birth control, the bringing up of family, personal habits, tithing, entertainment, buying, selling and other such important matters? What theological school, from the lowly Bible institute up, could continue to operate if it were to make Christ Lord of its every policy? There may be some and I hope there are, but I believe I am right when I say that most such schools, to stay in business, are forced to adopt procedures which find no justification in the Bible that they profess to teach. So we have this strange anomaly. The authority of Christ is ignored in order to maintain a school to teach, among other things, the authority of Christ.
Causes for the Decline of Christ’s Authority
The causes of the decline in our Lord’s authority are many. I name only two. One is the power of custom, precedent and tradition within the older religious groups. These, like gravitation, affect every particle of religious practice within the group, exercising a steady and constant pressure in one direction. Of course that direction is toward conformity to the status quo. Not Christ, but custom is Lord in this situation. And the same thing is passed over, possibly to a slightly lesser degree in other groups.
The second cause is the revival of intellectualism among the evangelicals. This, if I sense the situation correctly, is not so much a thirst for learning as it is a desire for a reputation of being learned. Because of it, good men who ought to know better are put in a position of collaborating with the enemy. I will explain. Our evangelical faith, which I believe to be the true faith of Christ and His apostles, is being attacked these days from many different directions. In the Western world, the enemy has foreseen violence. He comes to us no more with sword and faggot (iron club), he now comes smiling, bearing gifts.
He raises His eyes to heaven and swears that he, too, believes in the faith of our fathers, but his real purpose is to destroy the faith, or at least modify it to such an extent that it is no longer the supernatural thing it once was. He comes to us in the name of philosophy or psychology or anthropology, and with sweet reasonableness urges us to rethink our historic position to be less rigid, more tolerant, more broadly understanding. He speaks in the sacred jargon of our schools and many of our half-educated evangelicals run to fawn on him. He tosses academic degrees to the scrambling sons of the prophets as Rockefeller used to toss dimes to the children of peasants.
The evangelicals who, with some justification, have been accused of lacking true scholarship, now grab after these status symbols with shining eyes, and when they get them they are scarcely able to believe their eyes. They walk about in a kind of ecstatic unbelief, much as the soloist of the neighborhood church choir might were she invited to sing at the La Scalla. The choice is ours. For the true Christian, the one supreme test for the present soundness and ultimate worth of everything religious must be the place our Lord occupies in it. Is He Lord or symbol? Is He in charge of the project or merely one of the crew? Does He decide things or only help to carry out the plans of others? All religious activities from the simplest act of an individual Christian to the ponderous and expansive operations of a whole denomination may be proved by the answer to the question ‘Is Jesus Christ Lord in this act?’ Whether our works prove to be wood, hay and stubble or gold, silver and precious stones in that Great Day, will depend on the right answer to that question.
What then are we to do? Each one of us must decide, and there are at least three possible choices. One is to rise up in shocked indignation and accuse me of irresponsible reporting. Another is to nod general agreement with what is here, but take comfort in the fact that there are exceptions, and we are among the exceptions. The other is to go down in meek humility and confess that we have grieved the Spirit and dishonored our Lord in failing to give Him the place His Father has given Him as Head and Lord of the church. Either the first or second will but confirm the third. The third, if carried out to its conclusion, can remove the curse. The decision lies with us.
I just want to give you something to think about. I was talking with a sister along the lines of what was just read in regards to Tozer’s perspective and the perspective of some others. The way that the “church” is run is in a very sane and very practical, very common sense way by high finance business people, a lot of times, people who are very successful in their personal occupations.
When I look at that and I see the way that Jesus really wants us to walk, the world would think that the walk of Christ, the true walk of a Christian is a really radical walk. I hear so often that we are really radical compared to where we’ve come from, but I think that when we look at it from God’s perspective, it’s not radical at all. It’s very sane, very sound, it’s eternal, it’s secure, and it’s the way that it was destined to be for people who would wear the name of Jesus. What’s radical is walking apart from Christ. That’s where the real “radical” is. Being radical is walking on the edge of danger. Walking on the edge of danger is wearing the name of Jesus and not walking how He’s walking. Walking on the edge of danger is knowing the Word of God and knowing the Truth of what to do, and then not doing it. That’s radical. That’s so far away from God’s purposes. That’s going away from what the real norm is.
But if we are really walking and abiding in Jesus, that’s the norm. Living our lives sacrificially, getting on a cross, laying down our lives for one another, serving one another, going the extra mile, forgiving the 749th time—that’s common sense in the Kingdom of God. If I allow there to be a different standard, I don’t have motivation to repent. I will feel as if everything is okay. These things, as I’ve read through them and pondered them and applied them to my own life, have definitely helped me to see the standard of Jesus more clearly. Not in a way that I felt the slightest bit condemned, but in a way that I kind of knew a little bit better what path I needed to take in order to be more of a man of God.
I need to know what that path is. I need to know what areas I have to pursue God on, what areas I have to get serious about in my life. If you knew that you were 14 pounds overweight and you became convicted of that as being a bad testimony and unlike Jesus because of the way you got there, you would also automatically want to know something of the path necessary to resolve that problem. If you weren’t aware of it as being a problem, you had no conviction of the need to turn it around, then you would just float on down a path that would be unacceptable to God, and never make any effort or have any motivation to change.
If knowing that you are in this state and that it’s displeasing to God (in the sense that the way you got there blinded you to some of the leading of the Spirit and some of the opportunities to emanate the life and the character of Jesus) then, you automatically have some clues as to how to resolve it. It gives you a path to follow to be more like Jesus once you become cognizant of where you are. When you see where you are, and you see where you need to be, you probably know a little bit about how to get there. The things that are provoked in you as you read this, take them very seriously and apply them very personally. By all means share it with those people in your life that are closest to you. As you read this and look at God’s standard, I would like you to make every effort to awaken your own heart to these possibilities.
There is no one, I’m quite sure, who would be exempt from at least one-half dozen things being very rattled in their heart, very shaken, and God’s standard being raised. I’ve become rather shocked in the last couple of weeks as I’ve become aware of various situations that I think could best be described as appalling, absurd, and so far out from where Jesus would want them to be, it’s mind-boggling. And yet people in close proximity to the situation were either totally unaware or were so unconcerned that there was no effort whatsoever to intervene and to help bring about change. These issues included things regarding child rearing, things about marriages, things about personal walks with God or lack thereof, various hidden sins that weren’t very hidden. Yet next-door neighbors and people down the hallway had no awareness of the situations, or were so unconcerned that they took no steps, after months and months and months, to intervene and make changes in these situations. I’ve been amazed at the level of things, the very simplest things that would seem obvious to someone even in a denominational setting that seem to have just slid by as if they were no problem. Shocking!
I wept my eyes out one night feeling like I’d just wasted my last ten years. How could it be like this? How could it be so overlooked by those around that something this large, this looming could continue to exist? I’ve just surely wasted the last decade of my life! I must be an absolute total failure. There have been at least one-half dozen things like that in the last couple weeks. I’m glad to say that the things that I have become aware of are definitely heading right toward Jesus, and are on the right track. But how many other things are there that you know about, that you’ve seen in your next door neighbor’s home, or you’ve seen it in your own home? Situations where there is a lack of depth or lack of understanding of Jesus and His ways as it would relate to their life, to their job, to their family and their relationships (or lack of relationships). What about their personal walks or “secret” lives with God? You don’t have any idea whether it exists or not, and yet you say you know them well! You don’t know them well if you don’t know that there is an intimacy with Jesus in their life, that there is something in your neighbor’s lives that goes way beyond what words could describe.
I want to provoke you, because these things that you are about to read are a continuation of the other things that you’ve read earlier. I want to provoke you into seeing the things in your own heart and in the world around you that could make you a more effective servant of God and a friend of Jesus. “How can two walk together unless they be in agreement.” These are very practical things that could help you to walk in agreement with God. They can equip you to be able to see things in your own heart and in the world around you, and to be able to serve Jesus well. I think it’s fair to issue a warning that if there are absurdities in the way children are being raised, or how marriages are being walked out, or how relationships from door-to-door are being carried out, or if people’s own personal walks with God are non-existent or very shallow at best, if those things continue unaddressed, there will be ramifications. These things will find us out. There will be ramifications as there was in Achan’s situation in the House of Israel.
I want you to make sure that you, yourself, every individual within the hearing of this, will take responsibility, first for your own life, and then for the lives around you. Ask God to open your eyes, not only to your own life, but also to the lives around you and be faithful. Passivity is definitely a sign of wickedness and rebellion against God. Although it’s not usually viewed that way, passivity is wickedness. It is direct rebellion to Jesus and His teachings. He never offered passivity as an answer to any situation that He ever faced or spoke or taught about. Ask God to allow what’s already been read and what’s about to be read, Lord willing, to touch our hearts and awaken us and show us that road toward being like the Son.
Holy Father, would You, as we ask You in the name of Your Son, for His Righteous Kingdom and the advancement of His purposes on planet earth and in the lives of the population of planet earth, send Your Spirit and a quickening and an enlightening in bold measure into each of our hearts and minds. Bring conviction. Bring the Spirit of Truth and motivation and encouragement to be able to be like the Son. We want to see Him high and lifted up and to accept nothing less than the character, the vision, the purpose, the affections, and passion of Jesus of Nazareth in our own personal lives and in every life around us that wears Jesus’ name. We ask You for Your personal intervention, not just to instruct us, but also, by Your Spirit inhabiting the lives of those that have been born a second time, that You would bring about, as happened in the 1930’s, a great reawakening of Your purposes in our lives. Father, we don’t want anything to plateau or stagnate. We demand of ourselves that we pursue and press on toward the full vision that You’ve apprehended us for. The price that You’ve paid is too great for any of us to stop where we are now. We ask that what’s already been read would be an eternal tool toward the furthering of that end, and what’s about to be read would haunt us and inspire us and drive us to that higher place of the character of Jesus. Let it be so. Amen.
“Search me, O God and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Confession of sin is necessary for fellowship with God and revival among God’s people. Prayerfully consider each of the following questions, one by one. Answer each question truthfully. Every “Yes” answer reveals a particular sin in your life. In reading these questions, as you are convicted of sin, confess it at once to God. Be willing to make it right, then you can claim cleansing and forgiveness.
(I John 1:9) “If we confess our sins (conditional), He is faithful and He is just to forgive our sins, and beyond all of that, to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Be sure to name your sin to God. Lord, I’ve not put You first in my plans or I’ve neglected Your work in prayer. Do not make the least excuse for sin of any kind in your life.
(Proverbs 28:13) “He that covers his sin shall not prosper, but whosoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.” No matter what others do or do not do, Christian, leave nothing undone on your part. God wants to work through you to bring about a great spiritual awakening. He can only begin this awakening if you are willing to fulfill every requirement shown by the Lord through the Holy Spirit and His word. A revival of the presence of the Lord begins today, if you desire it. Read the scriptures first. Ask a question and give a truthful answer—“Yes” or “No.”
One of the things that I think was a key to some massive spiritual change in China was mentioned in the introduction. It was a willingness not to just absorb these things as knowledge, but to be willing to look at them in a serious way and actually answer “Yes” or “No.” You say, “Oh, well, that’s convicting.” Well, you never answered “Yes” or “No”. Okay, that’s convicting, great. Yes or No? Are you guilty or innocent on this point? Are you like Jesus in this specific area, or are you unlike Jesus in this area? Being clear about that is one of the points that whoever wrote this sixty years ago was trying to make.
It’s mandatory that we be perfectly clear with God about exactly where we stand. To meditate on the fact that it’s a convicting truth, and to just muse about it and ponder it is no way at all to grow. You will not grow if that’s how you approach truth. “Be very careful how you hear” is the way Jesus put it. “Be very careful how you hear.” The way that He wants us to hear is to be very serious and practical about the things we hear. Look at the Teachings of Jesus instead of just throwing them up in the air as some celestial jump ball, and wondering what may become of this truth that we were kind of pondering and kind of convicted and stirred about. Actually say, “God, I am not like that, I expect to be like that. I know my inheritance includes that aspect of Jesus’ character. I demand that in my life and I will do everything—I will gouge out my eye, I will cut off my hand, I will do whatever it takes to see this aspect of Your character in place in my life. I really want to be like You. I am desperate to be like You. I hunger and I thirst for righteousness and for a practical expression of this truth in my life.”
Remember the scriptures say, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” It doesn’t just say be gentle. “Let your gentleness be evident to all.” In other words, would anybody come up to you or say something about you behind your back and say, “That is a gentle person?” If they wouldn’t, then you’ve not applied that truth in your life. Your gentleness being evident to all means that it’s observable. The same is true of these other scriptures. “Now that’s an honest man.” “Now that’s a sincere or devoted wife.” “Now that’s a....” Fill in the blank with any of these truths that we are going to talk about. Expect and demand a practical, visible change in your life in the specific areas that you might put a little star by as we read along. Expect and demand a practical application of these truths in your life.
Don’t kid yourself. This is what James said about it. If you are hearers but not doers, you are deceiving yourself. As someone else said, a person that fools someone else is a deceiver, certainly, but a person that deceives himself is totally ignorant. To deceive someone else, at least you are smart enough to pull it off. If you deceive yourself, there is nothing more ignorant than to deceive yourself, to think that you are something that you are not. We certainly don’t have anything to impress anyone with or any sort of image to present. It is far better to be honest about it, to get honest feedback, to ask other people how they see you in a certain area —”Do you feel as if this is a problem? I’m feeling some conviction about this. Shoot straight with me. Tell me the honest truth. How do you think I’m doing in this particular area? I want to know how you view me.” Getting that kind of honest feedback is very, very helpful in spiritual growth, as you will see in the months and years to come. Wanting the straight scoop, rather than wanting to be self‑deceived, is crucial to growth.
Another key in this introduction is, “No matter what others do or do not do, Christian, leave nothing undone on your part!” Think about John the Baptist, for example. He was Jesus’ physical cousin, a man whom Jesus said was a prophet, in fact, more than a prophet. What a compliment! “The greatest man born of woman” is the way Jesus described him. The greatest man ever born—a prophet, but more than a prophet. Who is this guy who never did a miracle? Most people, if asked, “Did you ever do a miracle?” would honestly have to say, “No, I guess I haven’t.” But I want you to know that doesn’t have to be true for your entire lifetime if Jesus lives inside of you. More than that, even if God never wanted you to do a miracle, Jesus could still brag on you more than anyone that’s ever walked the face of the earth! How could that be? By some sort of predestination? No, just a life that is so subservient to the Voice and the Will and the Character of God that He can use you totally, freely, in any way, shape, or form He chooses. Your affections are wholly on Him. You don’t make excuses in order to spend your life on the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life. You are not trying to find a way to cut corners. You’re not trying to say, “Yeah, but so and so does such and such, so that makes it okay for me.” Nor are you trying to hide or make excuses. You’re not reducing the standard to the lowest common denominator, whatever you can get away with, because it seems as if other people are getting away with it. John didn’t live that way, which is why he was chosen in that special way and used as a unique mouthpiece.
Think about John. Probably about six million people walked through the Judean wilderness over a span of a year or so, just to hear him. Several million people, it’s projected, went through the Judean wilderness. Maybe you’ve never been there, but I want you to know that one of the ugliest landscapes you’ll ever see in your life is that Judean wilderness where he lived, eating wild honey and bugs. It’s ugly—hideous! And they all went there to hear this guy who had no one helping him at all. He had absolutely no advertisements, no supporting organization, no one sending him. There was no “church” out there doing great things for God, no miracles like people being raised from the dead. There was absolutely nothing going on out there, other than a man consumed by the Heart and the Fire and the Spirit of God.
Look what happened as a result of one guy, all by himself, who was totally sold out to Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus. He had no PA system, no literature to distribute. Yet several million people risked their lives and probably left their jobs behind (at least temporarily) just for a chance to ask, “What should we do?” “What should I do, as a tax collector?” “What should we do as a young mother?” That’s who you can be as an individual.
That’s not to say God doesn’t want to build through His Church, the Pillar and Foundation of Truth. I’m just saying that there are no limits, whatsoever, on who you can be if you will sell out the way John did. The thoughts that follow are actually reflections on some of the things that John said to those people.
1. (Matthew 6:12‑15) Is there anyone against whom you hold a grudge? Is there anybody that you feel has treated you poorly, or against whom you have some judgment in your heart? Anyone you have not forgiven? Anyone you hate? Anyone you do not love? Are there any misunderstandings that you are unwilling to forget? Is there any person against whom you are harboring bitterness, resentment, or jealousy? Is there anyone you dislike to hear praised? Do you allow anything to justify a wrong attitude toward another?
I’m going to repeat some of these things, because I don’t want you to just read the words on the page. I really want you to ask yourself these questions and think seriously about the answers. Run through a list of people in your mind. Is there anybody that you hold a grudge against? If the answer is “yes” to any of these things, it’s imperative that you deal with it, that you resolve it and that you repent of it. Tell God you are sorry for what you’ve done, and make it right. Take action on it! Don’t just think, “Well, yeah, I guess I kind of have felt that way toward my mother,” or “I remember a time when I felt like that, but I just kind of put it aside and decided to overlook it.” In your heart, you know there’s a wall in that relationship. There is a barrier. There’s bitterness, unforgiveness, a lack of love. If these words stir something in your heart as you read them, if a name or a face comes to mind, don’t let it go unresolved. If you refuse to resolve it at this point, and if you continue to refuse, it will not go well for you. You cannot grow spiritually when there are unresolved issues in your heart.
Remember David said, “Against You and You alone, O God, I have sinned.” That wasn’t to say he didn’t sin against Uriah and Bathsheba, even his whole nation. But the way he saw it, the all‑consuming issue at stake was that he had sinned against Almighty God! David grieved Him and broke His heart. He wounded a Loving, Almighty, Kind, Gracious, Faithful Father with the things he had done in his life and in his heart. Make sure there’s a passion in you, a very practical conviction that you will right these wrongs. Otherwise, I assure you that you will not grow spiritually.
Osmosis (hanging around people who are doing well spiritually) is not going to cut it. These kinds of issues must be resolved between you and God. That’s why Jesus said that you’d better go off in your closet with God and have a secret life with Him. You can’t resolve these things just walking along the way and eating at someone’s house on a regular basis—just generally hanging around an atmosphere. You have to deal with these things in a practical, real way in order to have a real life with God. Only then can you, like John and many other people throughout history, be filled to the brim with the Spirit of God.
2. (Matthew 6:33) Is there anything in which you’ve failed to put God first? Have your decisions been made after your own wisdom and desires rather than by seeking and following God’s will?
Do you do things that Jesus wouldn’t have done? Do you have priorities that Jesus didn’t have? Do you make excuses to go where you want to go and do what you want to do because those things have your affections—not seeking first the Kingdom, but just trying to add the Kingdom to your activities in order to justify what your flesh wants to do?
Do any of the following in any way interfere with your surrender and service to God: ambition, pleasures, loved ones, friendships, desire for recognition, money, your own plans, [your own affections]?
Please pause between each of these questions and answer God, who is asking these questions of you. I expect that, if you really desire to live your life for God, you will take these things seriously. Work it out in the prayer closet with Jesus personally.
3. (Mark 1:17) Have you failed to seek the lost for Christ? Have you failed to witness consistently with your mouth for the Lord Jesus Christ? Has your life not shown the Lord Jesus to the lost?
4. (John 13:35) Are you secretly pleased over the misfortunes of another? Are you secretly annoyed over the accomplishments or advancements of another? Are you guilty of any contention or strife? Do you quarrel, argue or engage in heated discussions? Are you a partner in any divisions or party spirit? [Factions, cliques?] Are there people whom you deliberately slight?
Are there people that you talk about or have an attitude about behind their backs?
5. (Malachi 3:10) Have you robbed God by withholding His due of time, talents and money? Have you given less than a tenth of your income for God’s work? Have you failed to support mission work, either in prayer or in offerings?
As much as is possible in your particular environment, apply the above in an organic way. There are institutionalized versions of these things, which are neither proper nor God’s best and highest way. But look for the heart behind this question. Have you seen the world as God’s and the fullness thereof? Have you seen the population of planet earth, those who need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, and then participated from your heart in prayer and with your pocketbook toward the end of seeing that the Gospel of the Kingdom goes into every nation? Does your heart see, does your prayer reflect, the vision of God’s ultimate purpose that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord on that day when every eye shall see Him coming on the clouds? Can you see the world rather than just your own four walls?
6. (1 Cor. 4:2) Are you so undependable that you cannot be trusted with responsibilities in the Lord’s work?
If someone has ever asked you to do something in the Kingdom, were you slow to do it? Have you been neglectful about fulfilling it? Have you left it half done or undone? Have you ever excused yourself from those duties in favor of your own little busyness and worldly, secular duties of straightening this or doing that? Are you just frittering away time so that you are not one who can be depended on to advance the work of God in your city and in the rest of the world? Are you dependable or are you undependable? Can you be trusted with responsibilities in the Lord’s work? Do you then work heartily as unto the Lord when someone asks you to do something, or when you see something to do and no one has even said anything? Are you trustworthy to do the Father’s will and to finish His work? Do you go after it and leave no stone unturned? Have you ever paced back and forth in front of someone’s door in prayer, weeping until you saw something resolved? Or did you just brush it off and say, “Someone else will do it?” Do you work heartily as unto the Lord, or are these just external things to you? Is it unto Jesus? If Jesus asked you to scrape off somebody’s windshield, do you think you would run off and do a good job all the way around the car? Or would you just scrape a little hole in the middle of the windshield? Do you do what you do as unto Jesus or as some kind of external good deed? Whatever you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done it for Jesus. Is it your heart to respond for Jesus’ sake and to Jesus? Or do you just allow your emotions to be stirred without actually doing anything about it?
7. (I Cor. 6:12‑20) Are you in any way careless with your body? Do you fail to care for it as the temple of the Holy Spirit? Are you guilty of intemperance in eating or drinking? Do you have any habits, which are defiling to the body?
Paul said to offer the parts of your body as instruments of righteousness, not as instruments of wickedness. You have a whole collection of body parts. Do the parts of your body belong to Jesus Christ as instruments of righteousness alone, or do you use them as instruments of wickedness and self‑indulgence? That’s a very serious question that you need to answer. You cannot grieve the Spirit of God and also be pleasing to God at the same time. What’s not of faith is sin. What is not of the heart and will and mind and personality and desires of Jesus of Nazareth is not neutral. It is, in fact, sin.
8. (I Cor. 10:31) Do you take the slightest credit for anything good about you, rather than giving all the glory to God?
Of course, he’s not talking about a self‑righteous, religious spirit that slings out religious words like, “Well, I didn’t do it... Jesus did it through me.” That can get old really fast. He’s talking about what goes on in your heart. It’s okay to just say, “Thank you” or “You’re welcome.” But, in your heart, how do you feel about it?
Paul said to the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Do you have a good mind? Well, good, you could have been born a vegetable. Do you have a nice voice? Well, how did you get that voice? What credit is it to you? Are you talented in any way with art, speech or writing? Do you have a great work ethic? Well, is there anything you have that God, Himself, did not give you, or that your brothers and sisters around you did not impart to you by the gifts that overflowed out of them? What do any of us have that we did not receive? That’s what Paul said to the Corinthians, who were self‑satisfied braggarts. They were living in compromise, slothfulness, and garbage. But they were happy with themselves to the point of boasting of their great faith and their great works before God. Paul said, “You guys are way off base. I can’t even say spiritual things to you because you wouldn’t even get it. You are babies. You don’t even know what you are talking about, and yet you are boasting about how smart and spiritual you are. You have great gifts? Well, you abuse them. You destroy each other with them. Anything good that you may have is certainly nothing to boast about. God did that for you. Thank Him and Him alone.” That’s the kind of heart that this writer, whoever it was in China, was admonishing us to have. It ought to make us very humble and submissive, very meek and lowly in heart to know that, while some good things have come to us or through us, we could very well be vegetables tomorrow apart from God’s grace. Whatever clothing you have, whatever food you have, your time, your eyesight—everything that gives you the ability to do anything is purely and solely a gift from the Father. It wouldn’t even exist except for His continuing to hold it in place in your life. Humility is wisdom. It’s not just spiritual—it’s wisdom.
Do you talk of what you have done rather than what Christ has done? Are your statements mostly about “I”? Are your feelings easily hurt?
Do you have thin skin? Are you easily offended? Does it bother you when someone greets the person next to you but overlooks you? Do you let things like that grate on you so that you begin to be resentful? Are you easily offended? If you are, you’re making a big mistake. For one thing, your view of yourself is much too high and, besides that, you have far too little mercy and compassion for others around you. It’s very self‑centered to have thin skin, to be easily offended. For anybody to have to walk on eggshells around you is criminal on your part. No one should ever have to walk on eggshells around you for fear they might offend you and throw you off the deep end. If you really love Jesus and you really agape His Word and Truth, you are going to be very approachable. People will be able to talk to you, to suggest certain things to you that they see in your life without making you fall apart, run off the deep end and strike back. None of those things can be part of your life. You can’t allow them in your life. You won’t want them in your life.
You’ll be secure, knowing that He who died for you is able to complete the task He began in you, so it’s okay. You don’t have to be threatened by truth. It doesn’t have to be an offense to you. You need to be secure. Now, a secure person might ask, “Why do you say that? If there is any truth to what you are saying, I really do want to know about it. I honestly want to know, because I want to be just like Jesus.” But we will not be easily offended if we are really in love with Jesus and compassionate and loving toward other people.
Have you made a pretense of being something that you are not?
Have you portrayed some image about yourself that isn’t true? Maybe you are not a man or woman of prayer. Maybe you don’t have a deep heart of conviction and a true, honest revelatory relationship with Jesus. Yet you give the idea that you do by the way that you carry yourself. Or maybe people come to you at times when you know good and well that your life is not right before God. Yet you answer them with grandiose wisdom because they expect it. Thus you fulfill the role that they expect you to fulfill. Well, that’s hypocrisy and sin.
Do you give others the impression that everything’s okay when it’s not? Do you just smile and nod and go on, when truly in your own heart you know there are some things that have to be resolved? Or are you honest enough to deal with them forthrightly? I don’t mean that you should whine like a crybaby and mope. But there’s a way to say, in faith, “Hey look‑‑there is a serious problem and I want it resolved. I’m confident that it can be resolved, but I need your help. Where do we go from here?” There’s a way that’s very practical, very grace‑filled, and very confident in Jesus. I’m not talking about whining whenever someone asks, “How are you doing?” “Well, to be honest, I’m doing really bad.” No. I’m not talking about that kind of whiny life. Just be real and say, “Well, there are some things that Jesus has done for me that are wonderful, immense and awesome. There are a couple of areas that I don’t think are the way Jesus wants them to be. Here’s what they are. What do you think? Give me some feedback. Be a sounding board for me.” That sort of life is very practical.
In view of all this, I want you to examine yourself. If someone thinks that you’re a nice person, but you’re just kind of there, you just kind of exist in their perception of you, that has to be, by definition, hypocrisy on your part. You are not a nice person if all you do is exist! If all you do is hold down space wherever you are, kind of like a paperweight, something is wrong. If you just occupy a certain volume of planet earth and you’re just a nice person, then you’re really not a nice person.
Jesus said, “Everyone who abides in Me will bear much fruit, showing himself to be My follower.” If you are His follower and you are truly living in Him and He is living in you, then you will bear much fruit. Don’t kid yourself. Jesus said, in that same testimony in John 15, the unfruitful branches are in trouble. There is truly no way to just take up space and be a nice person. You can’t do that. It’s impossible. You’re not abiding in Jesus if you are just taking up space. You are an unfruitful branch if you’re just co‑existing with the world around you, smiling, nodding, back‑patting, grinning, laughing, eating someone else’s food and letting them eat yours. If you are not changing other people’s lives, then you’re not a nice person and something needs to change in your own life. There is some repentance that needs to take place. The capacity lies within you to change everything around you by thirty, sixty or a hundred fold. Jesus said that every good, noble and honest heart has that capacity. I just want you to take this really seriously.
I think the standard has to be made crystal clear. If an outside observer would just say that we are nice people who co‑exist and basically stay out of trouble, then some deep repentance needs to take place. And the sooner it happens, the better! If you know of folks in your specific environment, your neighborhood, or in your relationships who seem like nice people (you don’t know of them getting into any great amount of trouble, but then again you don’t see fruit thirty, sixty or a hundred fold), rest assured that there are some serious spiritual problems. There have to be problems, or else Jesus lied. It’s one of two choices, and I don’t think that Jesus lied.
Don’t be fooled by a smile and a good casserole, by hanging around a lot and being nice. That’s not Christianity. It’s not the kind of thing that Jesus talked about. I just want us to be aware that our potential is infinitely higher than what we are walking in. If we’ll come to grips with that, if we’ll be honest about it and “fess up,” then God can really work through us in a spectacular way. We won’t just have words and concepts that flow out of us and give us some kind of ego trip. It’s not about words and concepts. It’s about going eyeball‑to‑eyeball to change lives into the Image and glorious freedom of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s who you can be! So welcome people into your life. Don’t have thin skin and be easily offended. Welcome people into your life so that you, too, can have that same Spirit that our brother John had.
We have a lot of help, but even without any help at all it was possible for one man, a mere human, to have so much of the Life of God in him that he was a magnet for six million people across a wilderness. That’s mind‑boggling to me! I’ve been so encouraged and challenged that I am anxious to continue provoking myself with these things. What we are reading about in these quotations are the very things that make our lives different from John’s. These are the things that I need to apply in my life in order to walk in that kind of power. This is not power for myself, but it is simply being useful to God instead of spouting off meaningless clichés in poetic form. It’s good and healthy for me to read these things. I hope it is for you, too.
9. (Eph. 3:20) Are you self‑conscious rather than Christ‑conscious? Do you let feelings of inferiority keep you from attempting things you should do in serving the Lord?
Are you “in” yourself—” Well, I don’t think I could because last time I...?” Anytime that word “I” keeps showing up, you know there’s a serious problem. You are not looking at things in the right way. You are not seeing things the way God does if you’re always consumed with your history, your record, your talents, your commitment or your knowledge. If that’s what you are thinking about and it’s limiting you in any way from stepping out, then that’s a sin you’re going to have to repent of. You think that your inadequacies are reasons. They’re not. They’re sin. Because He who lives in you is greater than he who is in the world. That’s a promise from God. If the Godhead (the Father, Son and Holy Ghost) has come to make Its home inside of you like Jesus promised It would, then you can’t possibly be limited by your own intellect or your own past achievements, your own talents or your own ability to say things correctly. You are not limited in any way except by your lack of faith. “Be it done to you according to your faith”‑‑according to what you believe that God has done in and for you, and what He could, therefore, do through you. If inferiority or self‑consciousness characterizes your thinking (you’re always thinking about yourself in a crowd, you’re always thinking about how others might respond if you say something), repent. You have to repent. You have to say, “God, I’m sorry I’ve been that way. That stinks. That is unbelief because You said that You would live inside of me and live through me, doing Your works in and through my life. But I’ve not believed You. I’ve thought that this earthen vessel could actually stop You from doing Your work. That’s unbelief and it’s sin, because I’ve called You a liar by believing that lie.” You have to be willing to talk to God about that, to be repulsed by those temptations to feel that way. Stop calling it “logical” or “reasonable,” and start calling it sin.
The only thing that can hold you back is how little you believe God about the miracle of rebirth and regeneration. What does it really mean to be born a second time? What does it really mean for the Spirit of God to come and make His home in me? What is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the deposit that guarantees my inheritance? If you only saw it correctly, and then believed what God said about it, there is no way you could feel inferior or self‑conscious! Those things are unbelief. You’re believing that God lied if you can look at yourself and hold back based on your past record or how you feel about a certain thing.
10. (Eph. 4:28) Do you underpay [your employees]?
If you know of somebody in your work environment or elsewhere who is not working heartily as unto the Lord, and you don’t think they realize it, please tell them. Please ask them to reconsider how they carry themselves at work with their attitudes, their work ethic, and their punctuality. Please be willing to help each other to see these things. Again, one of the purposes of the Body of Christ is to help one another see things that we might have been too dull to see otherwise. We may not have ever seen that this is not the work ethic of the Carpenter of Nazareth. This is not the way He would have done these things. It’s not the way Jesus spent His time.
11. (Eph. 4:31) Do you complain? Do you find fault? Do you have a critical attitude toward any person or any thing? Are you irritable or cranky? Do you ever carry hidden anger? Do you get angry [for something other than the righteousness of God, which is the only valid reason for being angry]? Do you become impatient with others? Are you ever harsh or unkind?
12. (Eph. 5:20) Have you neglected to thank Him for all things‑‑the seemingly bad as well as the good? Have you virtually called God a liar by doubting His word? Do you worry? Is your spiritual temperature based on your feelings instead of on the facts of God’s word?
13. (Eph. 5:15) Do you listen to unedifying radio or television programs? Do you read unworthy magazines? Do you partake in worldly amusements and indulge yourself? Do you find it necessary to seek satisfaction from any questionable source? Are you doing certain things that show you are not satisfied in the Lord Jesus Christ?
14. (Phil 1:21) Are you taken up with the cares of this life, with busyness? Is your conversation centered around things rather than the Lord and His word? Does anything mean more to you than living to please Christ?
Is that what you feel like you want to talk about? Do you want to converse about this thing you accomplished at work, or the latest technology, or the latest sporting event? Is that where your affections are and is that what you are excited about? Or is it Jesus that you are excited about?
15. (Phil 2:14) Do you ever, by word or deed, seek to hurt someone? Do you ever gossip? Do you speak unkindly concerning people when they are not present? Do you carry prejudice against true Christians because they are of some different group than you are, or because they do not see everything exactly like you do?
Obviously, that doesn’t mean that you should just ignore something that is not in keeping with what Jesus taught—to just backpat and pretend everything’s okay. But will you, in humility, go and talk about it and try to work it out instead of just forming an attitude or having a judgment? How do you know whether, given the same opportunity that you’ve had, they might respond even better than you did? How do you know? Consider others better than yourself. If they are not where they ought to be (and I don’t mean where you think they ought to be), would you humbly give them the benefit of going to them? Would you reach out in compassion and try to bridge that gap, instead of just being critical or sarcastic? Would you try to make a difference by mending and healing and nurturing, rather than just commenting and smirking and laughing? Would you, out of a heart of redemption, be willing to pay any price to buy them back from whatever position they are in spiritually?
16. (Phil 4:4) Have you neglected to seek to please Him in all things? Do you carry any bitterness toward God?
Do you feel like God’s unfair, He’s unjust, He’s not given you a fair shake, He’s not given you what He’s given everybody else? Do you feel like He has unfair commands or that He calls you to do things without giving you the strength to do them? Do you have a fist that you are shaking at God? If you do, you need to soften your heart and ask His forgiveness. No one has ever shown the kindness and the mercy, the patience and the loving care that He has for you. No one has ever nor could ever compare to Him in terms of His faithful endurance of you and your baggage. No one has ever put up with you the way God has put up with you and me in continual love and concern. Don’t shake your fist at God. If you want fair, you’d better reconsider. Don’t ask for fair, please. We all deserve condemnation.
Do you carry any root of bitterness toward God? Have you complained against Him in any way? [If so, make it right.] Have you been dissatisfied with His provisions for you? Is there any unwillingness in your heart to obey God fully [“Well, everything but this!” or “What about him?”]?
(Col. 3:5‑9) Do you engage in empty and unprofitable conversation? Do you ever lie? Do you ever exaggerate? [It’s the same thing.] Cheat? Steal? Carefully consider these things. Do you overcharge? [Ponder these things.]
17. (2 Tim. 2:22) Do you have any personal habits that are not pure? Do you ever allow impure thoughts about the opposite sex to stay in your mind? Do you read that which is impure or suggests unholy things?
Do you tolerate the things listed above in your realm of influence? Do you pretend like you can overlook them because they don’t affect you, since you are so “spiritual” and “strong”, and, therefore, allow that stuff in your habitat? Rest assured, whatever you allow to enter into your environment, you will become. Your conscience will be seared as with a hot iron. You are not so spiritual that you can overcome those things if you allow them in your habitat. David and Job both spoke of things such as not letting their eyes look at anything impure or unholy. Not letting their speech or their minds ever ponder things that are unholy or impure.
Now, if David couldn’t allow that in his environment, who am I to allow it in mine? And who are you to say, “This movie is rated PG‑13 and it has these few things, but I think I can just overlook them.” You had better have a serious attitude about it. That’s not to say that things won’t ever come into your environment unexpectedly. Those things can happen. But don’t you dare think you can take a passive attitude toward it and say, “Well, it doesn’t affect me.” It does affect you. You have to take an aggressive attitude toward it, striking it down on the spot when it comes your way. You have to have that kind of attitude.
You can’t just have a laissez fair (come what may) attitude toward the things of the world and the things that are right from the pit of hell. Be it language or innuendo, billboards or jokes, or any form of entertainment that it might couch itself in, your attitude has got to be very aggressive. There can’t be any room for compromise with it.
I can tell you stories of situations where deep sin has taken root due to an attitude of “What could it hurt?” or “I’m just going to go past that to get to this other thing.” There wasn’t a serious, authoritative stand against this Trojan horse that the enemy had built. Do you know what a Trojan horse is? It was a gift, a massive horse that was rolled into the city. But it turned out to be hollow and a whole army came out from the belly of the horse and wiped out the city. That was how they got past the walls—in the form of a gift! The enemy arrived in a pleasant package. And that is exactly what satan does! He offers us all these Trojan horses of entertainment, of technology or whatever they happen to be. Some people would say I’m skeptical, others would say I’m too serious. But unless you take an aggressive attitude toward these things, you will end up in the same place of destruction. You’ll be worthless. It’s the serious people like John, the ones who will fully carry out the slightest conviction or whisper of the Spirit of God, that God will use. The rest of us will be sitting on the sidelines as the days come to an end.
There will be situations that will come up in our lifetime, I can virtually guarantee it, that will separate the serious people from the pretenders. Those who are really taking heed to these things and applying them in their own personal lives in practical ways will be separated from those who say, “This is all interesting, but what’s the big deal?” or “I’ll give that some thought.” There will be situations where two are walking in a field, and one will be left but the other taken. We are going to see some of those kinds of very tricky situations in our lifetime. I’m not talking about something as obvious as someone coming in with a submachine gun saying, “Deny Christ or die.” That’s not how we’ll be separated.
I’m talking about illusions, things that satan will do to deceive and distort, to pit people against each other. He’ll create imaginations in order to assault character and twist words. When those things happen, the people who take these things seriously will be able to hear God’s voice. The people who don’t will be blind and deceived. They’ll think they are doing God a favor by taking their stand against something that truly is in the Name of Jesus. All of this will serve to separate those who care from those who don’t. God likes it that way. They will seem like terribly bad situations, but in His heart God will be saying, “Good... I’m allowing this, because I want that separation. I want only what’s pure.” He doesn’t want all those other things. “Nothing unclean will enter my gates,” Revelation 21. God wants to separate, and He will allow the enemy to deceive and to distort, doing things with mirrors. God will allow it! In fact, the Scriptures say that God even sends deception to those who would prefer to believe the lie of self‑indulgence and self‑preservation, the lie of a self‑centered life. God actually sends a powerful delusion to people who live that way.
(2 Thess. 2) Do you read that which is impure or suggests unholy things? Do you indulge in any unclean entertainment? Are you guilty of the lustful look?
18. (Heb. 10:25) Do you stay away from meetings of the proclaiming of the gospel? Do you whisper or think about other things while God’s word is being read [or proclaimed]? Are you irregular in your gathering together with the saints, [whether in smaller gatherings in living rooms, or in “uncalled” gatherings versus “called” gatherings]? Are you undependable?
Are you so self‑indulgent that there has to be some kind of engraved invitation before you’ll show up? “Well, it’s not really a gathering so it doesn’t really matter.” Are you investing in people, or are you investing in some global concept that doesn’t really exist anyway? People are all that God has, right? So are you forsaking the gathering of yourselves together? I’m not talking about a gavel pounding and a bell ringing. I’m talking about lives that are devoted to each other, that are desirous of pulling together and provoking one another to love and good works. That’s what it’s about. Are you irregular or undependable in your devotion to people, in being with other people?
Let’s bring it down to a personal level. Are you apt to zoom around doing errands all by yourself? Are you apt to run off and do this or that, while nobody knows where you are? Do you ever give a second thought to bringing anyone with you? Or are you apt to live out a self‑centered, independent lifestyle? If you’re not devoted to God’s view of the Body of Christ, the time will come when God will bring severe testing. Those tests will come and deception will catch you unaware much more easily than it will those who have devoted themselves to being with brothers and sisters even in seemingly trivial affairs like running up to the store for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk.
Are you devoted to being involved with people, even in trivial matters, or do you have your own separate little world from which you attend things and visit places? Are people part of the very essence of your life? “Whether food or drink, do all to the glory of God.” Whether buying groceries or filling your tank, do all to the glory of God. Whether shopping in clothing stores or drug stores, do all to the glory of God. Whether washing baby bottles or changing diapers, high finance or paying bills, do all to the glory of God. Are you investing in lives and weaving together relationships with brothers and sisters, or is all that just an afterthought—something you might consider if it happens to fall into your lap? In your mind, is it “two or three gathered in His name” going to the store, or do you say, “It’s only a five minute trip, so why spend ten minutes to find somebody?” Whatever your excuse might be, are you too lazy to invest in God’s view of the Body of Christ? If so, you will suffer eventually. There will be violence in your life. You could easily become someone who would betray with a kiss, thinking you are doing God a favor. All because you never devoted yourself to God’s view of the Body of Christ. You just took for granted that it was okay to live inside your own little world of things to do, and you never found time to be devoted to people. If only you could see things the way Jesus does, you could take all those little “things to do” that are robbing you of your investment in lives, and you could turn them into opportunities to invest.
Have you neglected or slighted daily or private prayer? Have you neglected God’s word? Do you find the Bible and prayer uninteresting? Have you neglected thanksgiving at meals?
We are not talking about some ritual, but are you genuinely grateful? Jesus broke bread and lifted His eyes to Heaven and said, “Father, thanks.” That’s Jesus. He’s still doing that, if you will open your eyes to the Jesus who lives inside of you. He’s still doing that. Have you neglected daily family times? Have you neglected your family or household by living in your own separate, busy little world? Are you going in different directions, or are you devoted to your household or your family? Are you drawing together to feed and nurture and receive? Are you devoted to your home and those in your home, your household, those in your closest sphere of responsibility, or do you just cross paths? You have to be devoted to that, in God’s view of things. You can’t be so busy doing God’s work that you neglect the part of God’s work that’s closest to you. That’s definitely a contradiction. Don’t do that. That won’t pay off for you in a positive way.
You need to spend time with God privately, devoted to being with Jesus one‑on‑one, personally, in a “secret” time. Jesus said, “When you pray, make sure that you go into your closet alone and speak to the Father in secret.” Jesus’ assumption was that we would do that. Something that was a bit of a revelation to me is the fact that it’s not just a good idea. It’s actually rebellion against God not to do it. If Jesus said to do something and we don’t do it, that’s rebellion against God. It’s not just that you missed a good opportunity. Now, you did miss a good opportunity. You missed an opportunity to grow. Shame on you! Satan will make sure you have many, many distractions when you attempt to live this out. He will make sure of it, because he hates it.
If you want to see just how much satan hates for you to spend devoted time with God, I dare you to try it at great length. Watch how many things come out of the woodwork to interrupt you. Satan will make sure that there are all sorts of annoyances in your mind and in your environment. If you’re not willing to take it head on and fight your way past it, you will not have a secret life with God. Your Father, who sees what’s done in secret, will know that nothing has been done in secret and will have no reason to reward you. Be very serious about guarding that time alone with Jesus, and keep in mind that to neglect it is actually rebellion against the King of Glory. Passivity in this area is disobedience. It’s been helpful for me to look at it that way.
20. (Heb. 13:17) Do you hesitate to submit to leaders in the church or elsewhere? Are you lazy? Do you rebel at requests given you to help you in the work of the Good News? Do you in any way have a stubborn or unteachable spirit?
You may be able to answer that question yourself. But, my guess is that you’d get a more accurate picture by asking those who, in your heart and spirit, you know represent God’s authority in your life. I hope you have the courage and the common sense to ask them, because I’m sure you don’t want to continue that way. Are you ready for that? Would you be willing to receive something very simple about how you live in your family, or how you could carry yourself in public settings? It’s important that you have a soft, teachable heart, and a hungry and desirous heart. If you don’t, you are cutting your own throat. You are only hurting yourself. Look at that very carefully as you look into the Word of God.
In fact, would you just stop right now and ask yourself whether you’re hearing the Shepherd’s voice in this reading? Jesus said that the sheep know the Shepherd’s voice. Any time you recognize in your heart that “resonant frequency” which characterizes the living and active word of God, go after it! It is blessed to obey. And if you’re not hearing Jesus’ voice in all this, then please turn up your hearing. Grab hold of someone who does, find the Shepherd together. You are going to have to fight for the time to be with God, so plow through it with everything you have. Then watch Him pour out His presence, blessings and intimacy on you. He meets us more than halfway. Only, “Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart.”
21. (James 1:27) Have you allowed yourself to become spotted by the world? Is your manner of dress pleasing to God? Do you spend beyond what is pleasing to God on anything? Do you neglect to pray about things that you buy?
What does it really mean not to conform to the patterns of the world? Does that have some very real meaning for you? Do you understand in your mind the practical implications of “not conforming to the patterns of the world, but rather to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, offering your body as a living sacrifice?” Can you list a dozen things on a piece of paper that you have changed in your life to reflect the fact that you will not conform to the patterns of the world? “Here’s a pattern of the world, and I refuse it.” I’m not just talking about immorality, lying, stealing and arson. I’m talking about a pattern of the world, a way the world does things, that you refuse to submit to or to buckle under.
How do you practically resist patterns of the world and, instead, offer your body as a living sacrifice? There needs to be a real answer to that. Take, for example, holidays. That’s an area where there is ample opportunity to resist a pattern of the world. We can refuse to buckle under to the expectations of the world system and the lust of children for material objects, the sensual appetites for twinkling lights and all the other nonsense that has nothing to do with Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus, and yet affections and money are poured into this thing all over the world as if it’s okay, as if it’s normal. “What could it hurt?” Well, I’m here to tell you that many of the patterns of this world are taken for granted by the christian world as normal. The seeds of these things are very, very destructive. The history of it is certainly wicked. But even apart from any history at all, if it didn’t have all the demonic roots in occultism, it would still be destructive. It would still smell of the world’s pattern of things with its lust of the eyes, its boastful pride of life, and all the fleshly appetites and competition for material things that drive people so that their pulses race and they can’t even sleep at night. Visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. How cute. That’s not cute, it’s from hell! Why isn’t Jesus dancing in their heads?
As soon as we allow any affection for material‑world objects to dance in the heads of our children or of anybody who calls himself a follower of Jesus, we let friendship with the world come into their hearts and lives. And, according to the scriptures, that makes them enemies of God. This is really practical. Friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God.
Do you know what it means to have the Creator as your enemy? Wouldn’t you think it would take at least being a serial murderer, or something like that, to make God your enemy? God said that friendship with the world, blending in with their patterns, living life the way they do, thinking the way they think, laughing at what they laugh at and having what they have makes you His enemy. How can you saturate yourself with that stuff and accept it, letting yourself be pressured into it by family ties or work situations? “Hey, Ed’s a good ‘ole boy. I know he’s kind of religious, he thinks about things a little differently, but he’s one of us. Sure he is!” That makes you an enemy of God, according to the Scriptures. That’s a real bad place to be! It doesn’t say it makes you an enemy of God unless you happen to believe the right doctrines or happen to be part of the right church, or if you happen to know a certain set of teachings that make you more spiritual than others. It just flat makes you an enemy of God, no matter who you are, no matter who your spouse or roommate might be, what church you belong to, how old you are or how much you know. You become an enemy of God if you are a friend of the world. You need to take that really seriously.
You have to see patterns of the world for what they are—dangerous and hideous—or you are never going to be able to hear God’s voice and be lead by His Spirit. You’ll never walk in the fruitfulness and peace that Jesus has left for you as an inheritance.
22. (James 4:6) Do you feel that you are doing quite well as a Christian, that you are not so bad? That you are good enough? Are you stubborn? Do you insist on having your own way? Do you insist on your rights?
Two different categories there, but both are definitely worth thinking about. The Laodiceans said, “Hey, we’re doing okay compared to those guys over there. We have everything we need. We’re rich. We’re doing fine. Everything’s going well.” There wasn’t that hunger, that insatiable appetite for growth and for honoring Jesus, that desire for change. If we are really seeing Jesus high and lifted up, if it’s really the Glory of God and the train of His robe filling the temple, then we can’t do anything but put our arms over our face and cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy! I’m a man of unclean lips.” Isaiah was a pretty good guy, but the Holiness of God wrecked him. John was a friend and a faithful warrior of Jesus (he had known Him for fifty years or more), yet he fell on his face as a dead man when he saw Jesus as He really was. We are never going to come to the place where we can say, “Hey, get off my back. I’m doing quite well, thank you very much.” If we’re seeing things properly, we’re going to be constantly hungry for growth in our lives. Guess what? It’s sin to be satisfied. It’s sin to not be clamoring for growth, to not be crying out for every angle we can possibly get on how we could be more like Jesus. To be self‑satisfied is wicked! You just need to know that, because you won’t grow if you ever get self‑satisfied.You can’t hear God’s voice if you are full of yourself.
23. Have you dishonored Him and hindered His work by criticizing His servants? Have you failed to pray regularly for spiritual leaders in every part of the world? Do you find it hard to be corrected? Is there rebellion toward one who wants to restore you? Are you more concerned about what people think than what will please God?
Father, we ask for Your help not to let these things slip through our fingers, not to have holes in our hearts and our spirits where all this stuff leaks out and gets lost. We know that whatever things don’t build us will sear us instead. We don’t want to be seared‑‑we don’t want to lose our feeling. Jesus, You said that to those who have much, even more will be given. But from those who have little, even what they have will be taken away. Because You said that, it must be good. So we ask You to hasten that day for those who are willing to pursue everything with you. We gratefully embrace your promise that you will give more. But for all who read this, wherever they may be, who have little and desire little (because they don’t take Your voice seriously), we ask you to take what they have already been given away from them. Let them be either hot or cold. Father, we are grateful that you supernaturally do these things. We are not asking something that You’ve not already stated as Your purpose and will, so we are confident that, as with Jannes and Jambres, the folly of those who don’t desire You with a whole heart in abandonment and self‑sacrifice would be made evident to all. If they are just propping themselves up with words and ideas, with self‑justifications, and hoping to stay in the secret places where they won’t be exposed, please bring exposure.
Father, for those who are sincerely seeking Your voice, regardless of any past failures or inadequacies, we ask that You would grant them a revelation of Your Son in His fullness, and of their inheritance. May the demons of hell scream at the sight of their faith. Not their achievement, not their knowledge, not their commitment, not their great holiness, but the fact that they believe You with all their hearts and will not be shaken or moved in any way. God, grant the fullness of Your Spirit to any such person, the small and the great. To those who care I ask that You show Yourself and make Your Life manifest in them and through them, to display Your greatness, Your promise, even to the angels that long to look into such things. Father, to all who want to stand and will sacrifice even their very lives toward that end, without trying to hide or compromise or justify, grant the riches of Your presence and Your kindness and Your faithfulness and Your life in them to the max. Father, let it be so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I Abdicate (a song)
Jesus, I am finished with the lie
The lie that my life is my own
I can’t rule wisely, oh, I’ve tried
Lord, come and sit upon Your throne
I abdicate authority, I abdicate my rights
I abdicate the power to decide
I’m taking my eyes off of me to keep You in my sight
Beholding You, the antidote for pride.
“Beholding You, the antidote for pride.” As we see Jesus for who He really is, as we see how awesome and wise He is, and how much He loves us, that is our antidote for pride. As we see how worthy He is to be King, that really does cure us of any kind of delusion on our part that we have any business running our own lives. That’s really the antidote—beholding Him.
Jesus, Master, King of my life
Jesus, Master, King of my life
You deserve my every affection
All my heart I place in Your hands
You’re worthy of my deepest devotion
Your willing servant I await Your command
Jesus, Master, King of my life
Jesus, Master King of my life
All I want to do is love You
Live my life to glorify Your name
All praises sing to give honor to you
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all who live in it. For He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol, or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God His savior. Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, Oh God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, O you gates. Be lifted up you ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty. The Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads O you gates, lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is He, the King of Glory? The Lord Almighty. He is the King of Glory.
Now, there are two ways you can look at that passage. You can see it as a process of elimination, where only those who have pure hands get to stay and everybody else has to go. Or you can look at it as an opportunity. God has put before us the opportunity to be some of the only people in all of history who can ascend His Hill and who can stand in His Presence, in His Holy Place. He’s given us the opportunity to be some of the few in history who have done that! It’s not a heavy burden—”Oh no, I have to have clean hands and a pure heart.” Rather it is—”I have the opportunity to stand in God’s Presence, to walk with the Living God, the King of the Universe!”
“Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty. “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’ “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’ “ Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”